Running a successful dental practice – like any small business – takes time, effort, perseverance and a little luck. It can be a mammoth step-change going from practising as an associate dentist to owning and operating your own dental practice, and without the essential support and guidance of experts, clinicians will be relying on more than just a little luck.
For instance, there can be many reasons why a particular strategy or business approach doesn't garner the results you desire, but without the experienced know-how of business specialists, dentists may find they lack the commercial insight needed for their practice to be a success.
Naturally, such insights are gathered over a long period of experience – lots of trial and error – and are based on seeing first hand what works and what doesn't. Having worked with dental practices for many years, at 7connections we have established the following 7 pain points that at some time every practice will have to overcome in order to succeed.
1. Lack of Balance
In a national survey that asked what factors are most important to the UK population, 53.7% said work-life balance was the top concern.[i] And yet according to data from the 2018 Global Talent Trends study, one in two adults report low satisfaction with their work-life balance.[ii]
As a practice owner, you can spend 28-35 hours a week performing clinical activity, and then still have to run your business; this can be at least another 10 hours! Achieving a balance therefore requires reducing the time spent working, which means either getting a better team or utilising better systems.
2. Lack of Profitability
When you work hard, you naturally want to see your business making money. However, most practices will suffer at some point from a lack of profitability. In short, if your practice costs more to operate than the amount of revenue generated, then it will soon face real problems. But if you employ the correct model and well-established systems this can easily be avoided.
3. Lack of Growth
Business growth is essential, you should aim for growth to be at least in line with inflation, and more if you want to eventually sell for a profit. Therefore if you experience a drop in turnover or a lack of progress across your business, it’s time to consider a change.
4. Lack of New Patients
A dental practice will always need new patients. To achieve a steady flow, all you need is 20 leads per full time dental surgery per month. Ideally these patients will spend between £1,500 and £1,700 in their first year with you. This will help deliver the sustainable growth required. But bear in mind that every aspect of your practice affects how new patients invest in your services. From your marketing to your systems, to the way your reception looks, it is essential the patient journey reflect the demographic you want to attract.
5. Lack of Team Trust
For any successful business, you need a motivated team who all perform and behave according to your exacting brand standards. However, developing and maintaining a dedicated workforce can be one of the biggest challenges you’ll face. Remember any system you create is only as good as the people you have implementing it.
6. Lack of Systems
We talk a lot about systems, and for any business to be a success it needs well thought out systems that underline everything you do. Every part of your business should have a system that exists in a manual that your team can refer to and implement. To begin with this requires a lot of hard work, but will ensure that later down the line, your business is ready for the future growth and expansion you desire.
7. Lack of Productivity
A key component of success for any dental practice comes down to the individual profitability of every fee-earner in the business. It’s vital to analyse the productivity and profitability of each clinician, and to ensure they are always kept busy – and in order to do that you need leads and conversions.
If these pain points are sounding familiar there are solutions that will help to address them all. In order to fix these points and build your business you will need to optimise every part of your practice – both through the right use of human resources, and through implementing efficient systems and protocols.
The best place to start this is in reviewing your Patient Journey and evaluating how you attract and retain new patients. The much discussed seven-step principle known as ‘lifecycle marketing’, can help you to optimise this process, as it effectively encapsulates the process of attracting new patients and retaining them by building and developing long-term relationships.
[i] What do workers look for in a job? http://careers.theguardian.com/careers-blog/what-employees-want-job-company-around-world [accessed 18.7.19]
[ii] Reporting on satisfaction of work-life balance, 51% of adults reported a desire of more flexible work options at their company. Mercer 2018 Global Talent Trends survey, http://www.mercer.com/content/dam/mercer/attachments/global/webcasts/gl-2018-pdf-global-talent-trends-study-us-canada.pdf [accessed 18.7.19]
About the author
Tim loves a big, bold challenge. An innovative problem solver and leader, he provides a critical overview of project management and business development. Tim is an experienced and versatile business consultant, coach and mentor with a proven track record. He has extensive experience in driving growth, cost management, and service improvement in the hospitality, health and leisure market.